Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area

1924, December 24 - Near head-on collision Carleton Place, C.P.R., Chalk River sub.

Ottawa Journal 26 December 1924
also Kemptville Weekly Advance 1 January 1925

Veteran Engineer Accepts Responsibility For Mistake In Orders.
Pounding, toward each other at a speed of from 40 to 60 miles an hour, both trying to make up lost time, two C.P.R. passenger trains almost crashed into each other Wednesday morning about 9.40, between Carleton Place and Almonte, just northwest of Carleton Place. A tragedy which probably would have meant death to many was averted by not more than 30 feet.
The fast C.P.R. Winnipeg train due in Carleton Place at 9.30 regularly, carrying hundreds of passenger hurrying home for Christmas and the Ottawa-Pembroke local with destination at Chalk River, were the two. trains involved. So thrllling was the escape that the town of Carleton Place buzzed with excitement the remainder of the day, the miraculous escape of the hundreds of passengers being the solo topic of conversation all Christmas Day.
Error Over Orders.
Failure on the part of the crew of the Pembroke local to correctly interpret the order handed them at Carleton Place was responsible for the near tragedy Engineer Edward Wood, of 136 Spruce street, Ottawa, an old and trusted employe of the C P. R, 41 years in the service, takes responsibility. He and the whole train crew have been suspended pending a full investigation. The conductor was Micnael O'Connell, 64 Spruce street. Ottawa. A freight crew was put on the train at Carleton Place and the local proceeded to its destination.
Train Went Ahead.
According to most reliable information available the C.P.R. Winnipeg, which is a fast train from the west, experienced engine trouble at Renfrew which delayed her there for 40 minutes. Orders were received by Operator  Marshall, of the C.P.R. at Carleton Place to hold the train there owing to the delay, so that the trains would pass there. Usually the trains pass at Carleton Place. The operator at Carleton Place claims that the orders were signed for by Conductor O'Connell in the regular way and the conductor then boarded his train. Looking out from his office window a moment later he was horrified to see that the train had gone.
Tried to Stop It.
He grabbed the telephone to get in touch with the gateman at a little shed about 600 yards from the station, but the gateman was out.
A freight train employe rushed out on getting the message and tried to attract tbe attention of tbe engineer but it was too late. The local had passed on its way to Almonte, seven miles away, gathering speed every second in the hope of reaching Almonte before tbe Winnipeg reached there. Passengers aboard were innocent of anything unusual taking place.
Almost frantic, tha operator at Carleton Place could do nothing. He waa almost paralysed by the thought ot impending disaster, with both trains trying to make up time the Winnipeg sweeping on at 60 miles an hour and the local 40 miles at least.
Just northwest of Carleton Place there is a straight-a-way stretch of track where a clear view can be obtained for about a mile. The engineers ot the two trains saw each other bearing down. Like lightning they applied the emergency brakes and the two trains started to slow with a grinding roar.
While reports differ it is stated that the two trains ware not more than 30 to 40 feet apart when they came to a halt. The hundreds of happy passengers on both trains did not know till then how narrow had been the escape from a mishap.
Operator Marshall heard the signals of both trains to stop as they sighted each other. He then heard the explosion of a torpedo put out by one of the trains, warning trains following behind to stop. Then the local backed into Carleton Place and a report made to the divisional headquarters at Smiths Falls. - Superintendent Crabbe ordered the Pembroke. Local crew taken off and a freight crew was picked, which piloted the tralin on to its destination.
The other train proceeded on her journey. A full report was made on the matter to Montreal. The suspended engineer and conductor were taken to Smiths Falls, also Station Agent Philip Egan at Carleton Place, who along with Operator Marshall were absolved from all responsibility. The engineer and conductor, however, remain suspended until head office In Montreal makes a report.
Says They Were 1 Miles Apart.
Mr. S. W.- Crabbe. superintendent of the C.P.R.. and in charge of the lines where the two trains stopped, told The Journal today that an investigation was being conductsd. In the meantime the members of the crew are suspended, but it is believed that both the engineer and the conductor, who have served the C.P.R. faithfully for many years, will resume their posts in time.
Mr. Crabbe stated, that Engineer Wood had assumed responsibility for the incident. The superintendent said "A slight mlstake in train orders had occurred." but that the trains which ware speeding towards each other, had been stopped in ample time. As a matter of fact, he claimed they were about one and one-quarter mlles apart when both engines were stopped.
Rests Upon Two, Mr. Crabbe said the responsibility for tbe mix-up would rest with both Engineer Wood and Conductor O'Connell. He took an optimistic view of the incident and commented that "It might have been worse. We are all human and are apt to make a mistake at any time," be said.
Mr. Wood, who has been with the company since 1886 has a very good record and hs feels most keenly over the affair. He frankly admitted that the responsibility tor the misinterpretation of the orders was his

Ottawa Citizen  27 December 1924

Head-on Collision of Two C.P.R. Passenger Trains Near Carleton Place Narrowly Averted.
Feeling of Thanksgiving as Well As For Minor Nature C.N.R. Wreck.
A smash-up on the C.P.R. line between Carleton Place and Almonte was narrowly averted on Wednesday morning through the crew of the Pembroke local, which leaves Ottawa at 8.30 a.m over-running orders. The crew has been suspended pending investigation.
Engineer E. Wood, 138 Spruce street, Ottawa, and Conductor Michael O'Connell. 61 Spruce street, Ottawa., were in charge of the Pembroke train. It is stated that orders were first given for the Pembroke train to cross the Winnipeg train travelling eastward, and which is due in Ottawa at 10.30 a.m., at Almonte. A later order said the trains were to cross at Carleton Place. The second order was overlooked, and it is fortunate that the engineers of the Pembroke train and the Winnipeg train sighted each other in time, applied the emergency brakes with alacrity, and managed to bring their trains to a stop and avoid a head-on collision, which appeared almost inevitable.
Reports Differ.
Operator Marshall, at Carleton Place, had a horrible few moments when he noticed that the Pembroke local, despite orders which had been given for it to allow the Winnipeg train to pass it that point, had left Carleton Place. Feeling, apparently, that a smash-up was inevitable he communicated with Divisional Superintendent Crabbe at Smiths Falls, for the break-down gang to be in readiness. Happily the latter was not needed. Reports vary, however, as to how near a thing it was. It is stated by some that the two trains were brought to a stop within less than a hundred yards of each other. Superintendent Crabbe claims they were a mile apart when stopped on a straight stretch just west of Carleton Place, and which, fortunately, enabled both engineers to anticipate what the result would be if they went ahead, to act with promptness and avoid a collision.
The Pembroke train was backed into Carleton Place and a fresh train crew provided, the engineer and conductor being called to Smiths Falls for investigation of the happening. The Pembroke train finally continued on its journey. The Winnipeg train continued its journey to Ottawa, the passengers of both trains experiencing a sense of relief at their narrow escape and suffering no more than from shock at the thought or what, might have been, and the slight shake-up through sudden application of the emergency brakes on the trains.
Superintendent Crabbe stated that Engineer Wood had accepted full responsibility for the mishap. Some sympathy with the engineer is manifested as he is an old employe of the company with a clean record. He has been In the employ of the C.P.R. since 1886.
Station Agent Egan and Operator Marihall, of Carleton Place, have been exonerated from any blame in connection with the incident.
Cause of Thanksgiving.
A feeling of considerable relief that things were no worse was manifest throughout the city and that Ottawa was spared a double calamity just prior to tho festive season. The mishap on the C.N.R. near Woodlawn, earlier in the same morning and which resulted in the engineer and fireman on a transcontinental train being injured, produced a, bad jar, but its effect was mild compared with the prospect of two trains meeting in head-on collision, a catastrophe which was so narrowly averted.

MONTREAL, Dec. 26. In the absence of J. J. Scully, local general manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway, no official statement could be obtained this evening in connection with the averted collision Wednesday morning of two C.P.R. passenger trains between Carleton Place and Almonte, but it was explained at the head office of the company that the trains were stopped over a mile apart and that the report of their "nearly plunging, into each other" was an exaggeration. It was pointed out that after the orders to stop had been obeyed and the danger of collision removed, one of the trains proceeded slowly to where the other had halted for a conference between their respective crews. The spokesman for the company, however, admitted the suspension of Engineer E. Wood and Conductor Michael O'Connell, both of Ottawa, for "failure to read train orders."

Bruce Chapman writes October 2020

I dug out the timetable that I recently got back from Bruce Ballantyne, and in timetable #67 of September 24th, 1924, The Chalk River Subdivision was entirely train order territory, with no ABS.
So inferior passenger trains outside of ABS territory meeting a superior passenger train had to get a 31 train order that both the engineer and conductor had to come into the station and sign the order in front of the operator, who would transmit those signatures to the train dispatcher who would ‘complete’ the order, and let the operator give the train a clearance with this train order number on it.
Several times at Ottawa West, I saw the conductor sign both his name and the engineer’s name to the 31 order which ‘restricted’ the work train’s movement, but this was just to annul a work order for the 3510 returning from Britannia, and didn’t really involve the engineer in any way.
So if both these guys came into the station in Carleton Place to sign this 31 order, it looks like they would be walking the street for at least a month, and if a mishap had occurred, it would be for a year.
This would have been #555, due out of Carleton Place at 0940, but it 1924, there were 2 western passenger trains due at Carleton Place in the morning, #18 called the ‘Soo Passenger’ daily,  due there at 0343, and #2, ‘The Imperial’ passenger daily due at 0434, so if it was #2, he is almost 5 hours late.

Return to Main Page of Railway Accidents

Updated 6 March 2022